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Suboccipitals: A big headache

September 17, 2018

Often, when I’m giving a massage, I like to end with a hold at the base of the skull. This is nothing fancy – I let the weight of my client’s head guide where I put my fingers, and I let them rest there for a minute.

For most people, this feels absolutely dreamy. That’s one reason why I do it. And the reason why this feels dreamy is because there are four small muscles at the base of the skull that work hard and have a hard time stretching. It’s still massage!

These muscles are, as a group, called the suboccipitals. Because I’m a word nerd, I am going to break this big Latin word up for you:

*”sub” means “below”;

* the occiput is the cranial bone that lies where your spine connects to it; and

* the “al” suffix means “related to.”

So, these muscles are related to the occiput and lie below it.

See? Latin is fun!

Now, these muscles – there are four of them – are responsible for extending your neck. In other words, they lift your head up. But: They do it JUST A LITTLE BIT. So if you find that your computer, for example, is positioned in a place where you have to raise your head just a little to look at it, or if you have to angle your head upward just a little to drive, these muscles are going to get very tight. They are a prime source of headaches in many people, simply because of where they are and what they do. So at the end of your massage, you’re going to get a lovely treat!

 

“Great, thanks for the info,” I hear you saying. “But what if I have a headache and it’s 10 at night and you are closed, and I want to loosen those muscles now?”

Well, of course you should book a massage. But you also should wrap some heat around your neck to loosen those suckers up. If you don’t have a heating pad, you can easily make one with some rice in a sock (warm it for a minute in the microwave and then check it; add another 30 seconds if you desire).

 

Be well, healthy and whole!
Robin

 

 

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